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    Description

    Group of Letters regarding William Quantrill, with a Strand of His Hair. Six letters, totaling 16 pages, various sizes, dating from January 6, 1879 to circa 1890s, relating to the life of Quantrill; along with a small strand of Quantrill's hair mounted on a certificate, 8.5" x 11", and an engraving, 5.25" x 7.25", of Quantrill.

    William Clarke Quantrill (1837-1865), born on Canal Dover, Ohio. Little is known of his early years except that he taught school briefly in Ohio before he moved to Illinois, Indiana, and Missouri, where he pursued teaching and other trades. In 1858, Quantrill moved to Kansas, where he lived as a gambler under the assumed name of "Charles Hart," and continued his teaching career. He soon became involved in the violence associated with "Bleeding Kansas," assisting both free-state and slave-state supporters by helping to liberate slaves and then capturing and returning them to slavery. A harsh critic of abolitionist John Brown (1800-1859), Quantrill became an opponent of the anti-slavery cause and, in 1861, sided with the Confederacy once the Civil War commenced. It is unclear if Quantrill officially enlisted in the Confederate army and in what capacity. He participated in the battles of Wilson's Creek and Lexington, Missouri, in 1861 and later that year led a guerilla band of rebel soldiers against Unionist's communities along the Kansas-Missouri border. It has been alleged that Quantrill was promoted to captain of Confederate forces in Missouri under the command of Colonel M. Jeff Thompson, but there is no clear evidence to support this claim. Viewed as a violent outlaw by Union forces and as a hero to Confederate supporters, Quantrill in August 21, 1863 led more than 400 Confederate raiders in what became known as the Lawrence Massacre, in which his men killed between 100 and 200 men and boys, many in cold blood, and engaged in looting and burning much of the Kansas anti-slavery town. In the spring 1865, his guerilla raid into Kentucky led to his men being ambushed and him being shot on May 10 while trying to escape. Quantrill died of his wound on June 6, 1865.

    Three letters in the collection are written by John M. Dean, who was a wagon shop owner in Lawrence, Kansas, and met Quantrill there in 1860. An ardent anti-slavery advocate, Dean was known as a braggart whose claims concerning his influence on the Kansas free-state movement and his knowledge of Quantrill were exaggerated. In a January 6, 1879 letter, Dean wrote a letter to newspaper reporter, William Walker Scott, Quantrill's boyhood friend in Ohio, who was researching the life of the notorious guerilla fighter. In his letter, Dean claimed that he was "the only available man that knows much of his life and infamous acts for a period of three years." If Scott agreed to answer several questions to Dean's satisfaction, Dean offered to give the reporter "very much of the inner moving spirit that gave such infamous fruition in the Acts of Quantrill and others and still is active and dangerous." On July 31, 1879, Dean wrote a detailed five-page letter to Samuel Walker (1822-1893), who served as a colonel in the 4th Kansas Cavalry, fighting on behalf of the free-state cause during the Bleeding Kansas crisis, as a Deputy U.S. Marshal, as sheriff of Douglas County, Kansas (1857-1862), and as a captain in the 1st Kansas Volunteer Infantry during the Civil War. In response to Walker's request, Dean provides his version of Quantrill's treachery in his attempt to liberate slaves at the Morgan Walker farm in Missouri with the objective to turn them in for reward money, a venture in which his three associates were killed.

    Dean writes, "The party that left Osawatomie for Walkers numbered four men. The three Iowa men...and Quantrill. I was there at the time on 'business' and had the confidence and love of those Iowa men. The evening before they left I had a long and serious talk on 'business' matters with Chas Ball the acknowledged leader of the party. We freely talked about Quantrill, his 'fitness' for the work. Ball thought he might do and seemed to have more confidence than I in his frequent declarations that all he wanted was a chance to prove by 'work,' his honesty. My counsel to Ball was caution, quick, sharp, decisive action. Give every man his place and duty and see that, with only a limited measure of confidence in Quantrill, until he had proved worthy.... The four left O's supplied with necessary blankets, provisions, arms, spy glass, etc. etc., and made a hasty camp near Walkers, in the woods, and proceeded to look the ground over, and arrange the plan of attack....Quantrill made a visit to the house and gave Walker the notice of the intended raid that evening, and arranged how he should be known, by moving away from the party...while approaching the house. Walker arranged a reception and when the party approached the house, Quantrill moved away as arranged. Ball suspecting something, spoke sharp to him and when Walkers volley came...Ball and Quantrill exchanged shots, with no harm to either in the dark of evening. Ed Morrison was instantly killed and was the only one of the three that could be found that night. A day or two after, one of Walkers slaves found the other two in the woods....Ball was seemingly 'all right,' and had a small camp fire, was making a poultice of bark for Harry, who was dying of his wounds. The slave...did immediately go and tell Walker, who summoned his 'army'...and surrounded the 'camp.' When Ball saw them approaching , he at once knew that he was 'lost' and singling out Quantrill, who stood beside Walker, dared him to come near enough to give him a fair chance. Ball stood over his dying comrade and shook his pistol at the attacking party. Walker...shot Ball in the forehead and killed him instantly. When Ball fell, Quantrill ran up...put his revolver into Harry's mouth and fired, and there was no one of the party left to tell Walker any different story than Quantrills...."

    In an undated letter, possibly to Samuel Walker, who was elected to the Kansas State Senate in 1872, Dean is seeking assistance in obtaining a pension from the U.S. government. Dean ends this letter with an offer to supply information on the whereabouts of a former associate of Quantrill's and of the bank robber Cole Younger. "Now to change the subject. Have you and good reasons for 'wanting' one of those devils that was at Lawrence with Quantrill when he baptized it in blood. The same ones who ranked up those invalide [sic] soldiers for Cole Younger to try his new rifle upon? Say you want him and I will tell you where he is."

    Quantrill's mother, Caroline Corelia Quantrill (1819-?), is the subject of a one-page letter, dated April 7, 1885, from a Maggie J. Brown of Samuel's Depot, Kentucky to her brother. "The Bearer of this is Mrs. Quantrill the Mother [of] Captain Quantrill. She has been in this neighborhood since the first of Dec. and from letters which she carries and family record the people here are convinced that she is his mother."

    Also in the collection is a four-page letter, dated April 14, 1889, from Samuel Walker, Lawrence, Kansas, to William Walker Scott, in which Walker relates an incident involving Quantrill (Charles Hart) and theft of cattle in Salt Creek Valley, Kansas. "[Quantrill] never went by any other name here than Hart. I never heard the name of Quantrill until after he went to Mo. in 61. I told you that Hart & Sincliar [Sinclair] came across the Kansas River at Lawrence from Salt Creak [Creek] Valley Kansas, not Miss. Over with 80 od [odd] head of cattle....Hart & Sinclear...took the cattle to Stuarts fort. I told you we found the cattle at Stuarts, and found the Stuart, Buchannon, St. Clair [Sinclair] & Hart playing cards. Some men skinning two of the Steers in the yard. The cattle warr [sic] taken from proslavery men that lived in Kansas....The owners came to me & stated that they had lost their cattle & tracked them to River. I was at the River in the morning & saw the cattle cross & Hart and St. Clair was driving them. I knew at once they wear [sic] taking them to Stuarts fort 5 miles South of town. Hart was indited [sic] for Steling [sic] Horses in the U.S. court and I as Dept U.S. Marshal tried to arrest [sic] him."

    The final document in the group, a one-page handwritten note, probably in the hand of William Walker Scott, is on S. S. Scott Company, Chicago, Illinois letterhead, stating that "Quantrill kept books for a lumber firm in Ottawa or Mendota Ill & that while there he shot & killed a man whom he said had knocked him down with the intention of robbing him."

    The letters, strand of hair, and engraving are accompanied by two binders of research material relating to Quantrill and the correspondents, and complete transcripts of the letters.

    Condition: The letters have the usual folds, with some areas of staining and toning throughout. Evidence of some holes from removed staples, otherwise in good condition.


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    April, 2018
    18th Wednesday
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